Posts Tagged ‘US presidential election’

Hillary Clinton’s damaged goods. It was madness for the Democrats to choose her

16/09/2016, 10:27:26 AM

by Kevin Meagher

It’s safe to say the Clintons have cast a long shadow over the Labour party.

A generation of political professionals have imbibed the campaigning techniques that propelled Bill to the presidency in 1992 and 1996, with two ambitious young Labour frontbenchers sent over to learn from the master at close quarters.

The lessons Tony Blair and Gordon Brown brought back with them have pretty much shaped everything Labour has done since. Rapid rebuttal. ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ Triangulation. New Labour was born in that war room in Little Rock.

But now the Clintons have had their day. Bill was a good domestic president, focusing ‘like a laser beam’ on the economy; balancing the budget, creating jobs and presiding over a decade of prosperity.

But he is also venal and morally-corroded. A Vietnam draft-dodger who, while Governor of Arkansas, notoriously sent a mentally-disabled man to his death, just so he didn’t look weak on the death penalty, (the issue that hobbled Michel Dukakis’s 1988 tilt at the White House).

Never mind that impeachment business.

Despite his many good works as president, a trail of slime followed the Clintons throughout their time in the White House. As people, Bill and Hillary make Frank and Claire Underwood in House of Cards look like Tom and Barbara from The Good Life.


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US campaign diary: the real story with Romney’s video is his reaction – the Republicans have shifted to a base strategy

18/09/2012, 03:07:16 PM

by Nikhil Dyundi

Wow. Just wow. No Democrat could have dared hope that Mitt Romney would have crashed his campaign so spectacularly.

It was already exhibiting disturbing warning signs.

Insiders had broken ranks and started briefing journalists on what was going wrong, pushing out blame in a vain attempt to escape the eventual wreckage with their consulting careers intact.

The polls were tilting against Romney and down ballot Republicans and the media consensus on the superiority of Obama’s campaign was hardening.

But still, there was time. Not much, but there was some space left to change the dynamic in the race. Then the video surfaced and it turns out the wall was a lot closer than anyone imagined.

The reaction in the US media has been unanimous – this is likely a campaign ending moment for Romney.

Sure, he will keep touring the country, the debates will still happen and hundreds of millions of dollars of Romney ads will be dumped on voters.

But in terms of this being a competitive race, the contest is over.

The video reinforces too many of the negatives about Romney and the Republicans at a critical juncture in the election. Even with unlimited funds, there are too few voters that can be persuaded in the little time remaining to switch from undecided to Romney.

The campaign strategy Romney sets out in the video – appealing exclusively to the undecided 10% who voted for Obama last time  but now aren’t sure – seems to be no longer viable.

That’s what the media think, along with the vast majority of political consultants. Some Republican talking heads have kept the faith on air and a few might even believe it.

You would expect the majority of this latter group to be closely involved with the campaign. One of the golden rules of politics is that you’ve got to believe there’s a shot at victory. No matter how narrow the path, its existence is what keeps politicians and campaigners going.

But here’s the kicker: judging by their reaction to the video, the Romney campaign is in full agreement that their strategy is a bust.

We know this because when Mitt Romney got up in front of the media at his scrambled press conference in California he didn’t do what Mitt Romney normally does. He didn’t obfuscate in too excruciating a manner, parse more than normal or even use the magic words, “I misspoke”.

Instead , he basically stood by his remarks.

The press conference has been written up as yet another gaffe in a catastrophic twenty-four hours. But this is unfair. The word gaffe implies an unintended mistake. Everything Romney said at his presser he meant.

It was the surest sign that they have fundamentally junked their old strategy with just weeks to go before the election.

In standing by the video, Romney is writing off the undecided centrist swing-voters who will likely be repelled by his words. And he certainly won’t be reaching out to convert any confirmed Obama voters.

No, the sole audience for the Romney campaign is now the Republican base.


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US campaign diary: the O-team is playing at a different level to the Romney campaign

20/08/2012, 07:00:10 AM

by Nikhil Dyundi

Want to see some smart politics?

On Friday, Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager wrote to his Romney counterpart, Matt Rhoades, with an offer:  a pledge not to pressure Romney to release more than five years of tax returns if the Republican nominee would disclose that much information.

Romney had previously stated that one of the reasons he was not releasing further returns is that Democrats will always call on him to put out more than he has (if he releases three years, they’ll want six, etc.)

Naturally, Romney refused. In the grand scheme of things it was a minor skirmish, but the thought process behind the Obama offer shows how Chicago are playing this game at a wholly different level to Romney’s team.

Turn the clock back to Thursday morning, and run through the O-team logic.

First, the audience: it sure as hell wasn’t Matt Rhoades and the Romney campaign. The main audience wasn’t even the voters. No, the primary target was the presidential media pack.

That reliable bell-whether of the conventional press wisdom, Politico, recently ran a piece on media whining about the tone of the race. Setting aside the short memories of these delicate reporters who seem to think the swift-boating of John Kerry to be a high point in campaign history, this type of background chatter provides the prism through which all reporting is projected.

Messina’s offer was designed to demonstrate bi-partisanship: a gentlemanly proposal raising the tone and seeming to give an opportunity to draw a line under the tax return issue.

For the grumbling press pack, the act of making the offer did two things: created a new campaign event about Romney’s returns to report and re-positioned the Obama campaign on the moral high ground.

The response to the offer, whatever it was going to be, would then open up new opportunities for the Obama campaign.


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Three things we learned about Romney when he picked Paul Ryan as his running mate

14/08/2012, 07:00:55 AM

by Nikhil Dyundi

As the immediate buzz around Paul Ryan’s selection subsides the real implications are becoming clear. Suffice to say, they don’t paint a picture of a campaign in rude health. Here are the top three.

1 Romney is still running in the Republican primary

The Ryan pick tells us that Romney is worried about his back.

Neither the Republican elite, as embodied by the Wall Street Journal, nor the tea party base has coalesced around Romney as he would have wanted. Background chatter criticising the campaign and candidate are a constant.

Paul Ryan is the darling of the Republican elite and seen as sufficiently fiscally sound/insane (delete as appropriate) by the base. His choice will firm up these groups’ commitment to the campaign. But this support was meant to be sewn up months ago. At this stage in a presidential contest, the candidate should have swung into the centre, not headed out further into base territory.

By picking Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney is essentially still fighting the Republican primary and just permanently ceded large tracts of the centre ground to team Obama.

2 The current campaign narrative is killing Romney and he is trying to change the conversation

So far the campaign has been defined by two questions: Did Bain destroy American jobs and businesses while Romney ran the show? And, has Mitt Romney paid any taxes, ever?

The facts have been against Romney on Bain. Despite his protests that he left the company in 1999, before they really amped up their mania for outsourcing, documents filed with the financial authorities have one Mitt Romney as the CEO and chair till 2002.

On tax, Romney has signed a blank cheque for the Democrats by refusing to release past tax returns. Whatever the Dems say about Romney, he will not release the evidence to contradict it. Which naturally leads most to think he really must have something awful to hide.

Picking Ryan is a bold enough play to shift the conversation.


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Obama should pretend there’s a Republican Clinton

03/05/2011, 02:00:49 PM

by Jonathan Todd

I recently saw a TV pundit – admittedly on Fox News, which I watch for perverse laughs – assert that Barack Obama will not win the next presidential election. Another pundit came back that he would, because the Republicans don’t have anyone to beat him. This is the prevailing establishment view. Andrew Neil recently tweeted: “A prediction you can hold me to: Obama will serve a second term”.

Obama’s position now is probably about as ascendant as that of George H W Bush at the same stage in 1991. Then Bill Clinton fatefully emerged. Few today deny that Obama has vulnerabilities. The existence of a Republican Clinton is more uncertain, however.

Mitt Romney has the kind of business background that helps in sustaining a claim to economic competence. This matters, particularly in the present economic climate. He may be the strongest Republican candidate and Obama may fear that further economic turbulence, as well as carrying its own risk, will lead Republicans to put aside their reservations about Romney-care and his religion to select him.

Romney is hardly Clintonesque, but Obama hasn’t always been so either. Can you imagine, for instance, Clinton being as remote as Obama seemed during the Gulf oil slick? James Carville blasted him for this. He has done better with recent tornados and, of course, the capture of Osama Bin Laden.


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